Thomas gets a bad rap. It starts when he goes AWOL and misses Jesus’ post-death appearance on the first Easter Sunday afternoon. Later that week, when he’s told Jesus is alive, Thomas won’t believe until he can see for himself. So he gets labeled “Doubting Thomas.” At church I learned doubt doesn’t mix with faith. If you have them, keep them to yourself.Easter’s message is honestly strange. I mean who knows of a dead person who reappears? If a person came back from the dead, who wouldn’t be a bit skeptical and want evidence that the dead is now alive? Maybe Thomas really wants to believe it is so. The disciples have an advantage. When they see Jesus’ wounds, they believe it’s him. He’s risen, alive. And Jesus is alive to bring God’s peace – the offer to be at one with the Father, as Jesus is. God raises us to share the divine life and love as Jesus does.
That’s not all. Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit into them, commissioning these fear-filled disciples to declare the works of God. Their first effort fails, when they try to share the new life with Thomas. The world has changed, but it is very hard to see and then believe it is so. They are yet to realize the implications. All is now forgiven. We have no excuse for living apart from God. Jesus unites us with the Father and breathes the Holy Spirit so that God’s love can flow through us. We can love the Father and each other, just as Jesus says. Seeing the world this way – the meaning of resurrection now – takes time to unfold in their lives and ours. That’s why we take 50 days to reflect on and celebrate Easter – and each Sunday we come here to remind us of what God is doing and give thanks.
The next Sunday Thomas waits with the disciples to see if Jesus will appear again. Jesus doesn’t disappoint: “Peace be with you.” He then invites Thomas to touch the evidence he needs: “Put your finger in my wounds.” Instead of chastising Thomas for doubting like my Sunday School teacher did, Jesus embraces him, invites him to take what he needs. Deniers, betrayers, doubters and sinners – quite a cast of friends Jesus has. Jesus excludes no one. We exclude ourselves not by doubt. Doubts keep us curious – searching. They can be gateways to faith and belief. We exclude ourselves when we hear, but don’t take seriously what God is doing in this amazing story – how it affects and changes us. We never reach the place Thomas takes us.
We don’t know if Thomas did anything more than say: “My Lord and my God!” That’s all that needs to be said. Easter comes when we make that next step. We believe Jesus is the real presence of God the Father. Thomas completes Easter. I like to think Thomas sees, but no longer needs to touch Jesus’ wounds. What is more profound is to think of Jesus coming with compassion and love for Thomas – as Jesus waits for us all. That might be the change that takes place in Thomas – he is loved for who he is and what he needs. If Jesus is our Lord and our God, then everything changes. We begin seeing what God is really up to. Easter is not just for Jesus, it’s for us – to change us into Easter people.
In Jesus is God’s life and love is present for us all. Thomas gets it – God is in Jesus. He sees divine love – coming to heal, forgive, restore and love – from fears, despair, doubts. No one is outside anymore. God in Easter gives us such hearts of hope that nothing can separate us from God’s love. This is the story we are given to proclaim. That life must first be raised in us.
We’ll still struggle, doubt and fear, even as Easter people. But from now on, we won’t look back to where we were – the old world, and return there. We’ll keep looking ahead to the One who keeps calling us back to life and love – a life of servanthood and of sacrifice. As Easter people we ask ourselves, “Am I growing, expanding my heart for those in God’s heart? Am I growing in love – serving others – putting other needs ahead of mine?” If so, Christ is rising within us. Others will notice. To change this world, God starts the change in us. Living Easter is as important as proclaiming Easter. By living Easter life, we can be signs of new life and God’s love. When Easter begins to rise in us, we change. We bear the Spirit’s presence – a Spirit of love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, sacrifice and self-control. This is life that has first chosen us – now we must choose, not once, but each day to invite the risen Lord into ours – over and over and over again.